[quickphilosophy] Re: 1.12; 1.13; 1.2 & 1.21

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2010 15:33:11 -0700 (PDT)

Thanks for your comments.

I'm struggling to see the grounds for your emphatically stated claims.

Some people seem to derive great pleasure from dismissing metaphysics, 
but I cannot quite see the point.  There is a long history of scepticism 
with regard to extravagant metaphysics - Kant devotes much effort to 
dismissing metaphysical arguments about God.  But the basis of 
metaphysics is simply questions about what kind of things exist and what 
is their character.

Is anyone suggesting that it is wrong to change view?  W wasn't the only 
one to do that - A J Ayer lived comfortably on the rewards from his book 
"Language, Truth and Logic" but it didn't stop him from asserting in 
later life that logical positivism was simply false.

There are so many camps of W interpreters, that it seems there is 
someone to support any view you care to take.  I'm not advocating 
Diamond's view, merely noting that it is there.  Another widely promoted 
view is that W did not change his views nearly so much as is sometimes 

In particular, taking into account the end of TLP, it is not at all 
clear how the early parts were intended to be taken at the time they 
were written.  The least one can say is that they are not meant to be 
taken in any straightforward way.  If there is a simple interpretation, 
then one would surely be obliged to suppose that it is what W is 
rejecting within the TLP as a whole.

What do you mean when you say that the TLP statements do not have a 
sense in the same way as propositions about states of affairs?  In what 
specific way do they differ?  How many different kinds of statements can 
there be?

Why is the history of science relevant?  Does scientific discovery alter 
the critical philosophical questions?

The kind of problems I have with the first few sentences are that I 
don't know what is being referred to by "the world" as it seems to be 
used in a philosophical way.  Or, I am baffled by what a fact would be 
if it is not simply a true statement.  But true statements don't exist 
in any straightforward way.

I'm not attempting to push W into any particular view, it's just that an 
assumption of idealism would make the introductory statements a lot 
easier to swallow.  And we know of W's fascination with solipsism, which 
most interpreters take to mean (for W) much the same as idealism.

An ordinary person would take facts to be true statements (that's what 
the dictionaries say) but if you want to interpret W in a realist way, 
then aren't you supposing that facts are something different?  If so, 
what are they?

There's a snappy development of some of these misgivings at 

On 10/08/10 02:42, Ron Allen wrote:
> I think that at the time he wrote it, Wittgenstein was very much
> convinced that it was correct, and not, say, a metaphysical exploration.
> In fact, I think that he basically believed that he had settled
> philosophical questions, in the large sense, once and for all. It's not
> illegal or immoral to change your mind, either. Nobody, except a
> complete blockhead, keeps the same opinions forever; it's a mark of his
> integrity that he so resolutely critiqued himself. One could even argue,
> as AC Grayling has done, that W. was beginning to embark on a third
> philosophical path with "On Certainty", one that is more in line with
> typical philosophy, exploring epistemological questions in particular,
> and not evaporating them into nothingness by way of dialectic and
> conceptual analysis.
> I'm aware of Diamond's viewpoint, but I just don't buy it. I think that
> the propositions of the TLP do make sense, and they make pretty good
> sense. If they are "nonsense" in any way, it's that they don't have a
> sense in the same way that our propositions about states of affairs have
> sense. They lack sense, in this sense, but are not nonsense, in that
> sense. I'm tempted to make some other puns, but I'll spare you....
> Logical atomism is a plausible metaphysics. If you just think about the
> history of science, how things as great as stellar evolution have been
> broken down into smaller and smaller physical accounts with smaller and
> smaller component parts (matter, energy, fields) and that this works for
> explanation and prediction, then, yes, there should be every inclination
> to describe the world as composite, but at root atomic and logical. W
> just got carried away, and it happens right there at 1.21. Yeah, I can
> see why this axiomatics wouldn't appeal to you.
> I don't think we have to decide Realism vs. Idealism to start reading
> the text. Actually, it might have helped his readers if W. had begun
> with such a discussion, locating himself within one or another
> philosophical tradition. But he didn't. And you just have to keep
> reading to see where he's going to wind up. This is Realism with a
> vengeance. The theory of truth is a correspondence-as-congruity theory.
> I think there's a case for saying that the world is the totality of
> facts, not just things. An ordinary person would accept this, because,
> clearly, the world is different if the things in it are in a different
> arrangement. So, from an ordinary language point of view, the world is
> the totality of facts is good common sense. Where are the facts? you may
> ask. Well, they are in the world. But, there is a twist to this a little
> bit later, which has me at least really baffled, that distinguishes W
> from both Frege and Russell.
> Thanks!
> --Ron

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